Australasian Journal of Philosophy 97 (3):465-482 (2019)

Nils-Hennes Stear
Universität Hamburg
According to what I call the Merit Principle, roughly, works of art that attempt to elicit unmerited responses fail on their own terms and are thereby aesthetically flawed. A horror film, for instance, that attempts to elicit fear towards something that is not scary is to that extent aesthetically flawed. The Merit Principle is not only intuitive, it is also endorsed in some form by Aristotle, David Hume, and numerous contemporary figures. In this paper, I show how the principle leads to a novel paradox when applied to an undertheorized class of artworks I call ‘seductive works’. These artworks necessarily invite an unmerited response in order to invite a (merited) repudiation of that response. Thus, according to the Merit Principle, they are necessarily aesthetically flawed, which is counter-intuitive. I consider a number of unsuccessful solutions to the paradox that aim to preserve the Merit Principle, before rejecting that principle as it stands. I discuss what is challenging about seductive artworks, before briefly defending a new principle that appeals to a general way that a work’s aesthetic value is conditioned by the constraints under which it operates. This principle not only resolves the paradox, but explains the competing intuitions that give rise to it.
Keywords Art  Aesthetics  Ethics  Ethicism  Moralism  Artistic Constraints  Genre
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Reprint years 2019
DOI 10.1080/00048402.2018.1502333
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References found in this work BETA

On What Matters: Two-Volume Set.Derek Parfit - 2011 - Oxford University Press.
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